Science and Creation: A Kabbalistic Approach

Modern cosmology meets traditional Jewish mysticism.

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The reason kabbalistic terms are helpful to our account is that they bind together the search for truth with the search for the divine. If terms such as hokhmah [wisdom, one of the sefirot] did not already exist bearing religious significance, we would have had to try to coin them--which would probably have been as successful as Esperanto. The emerging scientific cosmology and Kabbalah are two metaphor systems whose juxtaposition points toward a truth larger than either can express alone.  

The theory of eternal inflation, whether or not it turns out to be true, has opened a cosmic perspective on reality and the countless threads of connection, including the spiritual, weaving through. If eternal inflation theory eventually turns out to be wrong, whatever replaces it cannot explain less and will have to do better. A new standard has been set for creation stories.  

Vast Implications

If the theory of eternal inflation is correct, then there is an eternal blizzard of universes, in which our bubble is a single snowflake, an infinitesimal capsule of eternal potential, crystallized into unique patterns of matter and energy, which has set off from eternal inflation on its journey to realize itself in a universe.

No one has thought of a way yet to test whether eternal inflation theory is right, but the expansion of perspective the theory requires certainly enlarges our idea of the physical universe. It may also enlarge our ideas of God, because regardless of how much reality one may ascribe to God, one can only speak metaphorically, and most metaphors are limited to the extremely narrow experience of Earth. This does not make them wrong, but they are certainly limiting.

Cosmology provides utterly different metaphors--eternal inflation, endless creation from every sparkpoint--that humans could not have dreamed up had theoretical physics not led them there. It seems to be a general rule that the more metaphor systems through which we try to understand non-human-scale realities, both large and small, the closer we come to truth.

Creating a Balance

In our kabbalistic creation myth, tzimtzum--the withdrawal of God--occurred in eternal inflation. As the notion of a God in exile gave cosmic meaning to the lives of a people in exile, understanding cosmic inflation may give a new, if sobering, meaning to the lives of a people dependent upon inflationary growth. Inflation is a taste of what it is like to be God. It cannot be considered a normal human pace. In a finite environment, inflation cannot continue, however cleverly we may postpone or disguise the inevitable. This is a consequence of natural laws.  

The question for our time is, how can we end inflation gently on Earth? How can we slow human inflation enough that creative restoration can overtake it? When we have developed a sustainable relationship with our planet, humanity and Earth will be in balance, and the transition from inflation to stable expansion will have been achieved through the restoration of the world--tikkun olam.

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Joel R. Primack

Joel R. Primack is a professor of physics at the University of California Santa Cruz called Cosmology and Culture. He is co-author with Nancy Ellen Abrams of The View From the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos .